by Max Marbut
When the owners of a small business and its customers agree on what makes the business successful, it’s a formula for keeping the doors open and the cash flowing for a long time.
There’s no better example of that concept than Knott and Company on Hogan Street between VyStar Credit Union and Quizno’s. The full-service jewelry store has been Downtown since 1934. In addition to fine jewelry, wristwatches and clocks, Knott and Company also carries supplies for watchmakers and jewelers as well as some gifts.
The store was owned and operated by Miles and Mae Knott until 1975 when following the death of her husband, Mae wanted to retire. One of her employees was Epsie Erickson, who saw that as an opportunity to continue a 41-year-old family business – just with a different family. Erickson still comes to work in the store every day and keeps her eye on the business from her desk behind the counter.
Two of Erickson’s children, Eric and Janet (now Nolan), grew up in the business and remember several times when the business packed up and moved. First the store went from its original location above Liggett’s Drug Store to a space across from the Florida Theatre. The next move was to a storefront on Julia Street and then yet another move to West Adams Street occurred in 1961. The Ericksons unlocked the door for the first time at their Hogan Street store in 1987 and it’s been there since.
“I remember coming to the store and hanging out around the jeweler’s bench and tinkering with watches starting when I was six or seven years old. I spent a lot of time watching the old-timers work and this is the only job I’ve ever had,” said Eric Erickson.
Nolan remembers her childhood days coming to the store when it was on Forsyth Street. Having the Florida Theatre across the street was a lot of fun, she said.
“I could go over there and spend the day watching movies. You wouldn’t be able to do that these days,” said Nolan.
The part of the jewelry business that has changed the most is wristwatches. When Knott and Company first opened, all of them were mechanical, not like the electronic models people wear today. That doesn’t mean being a watchmaker is a lost art.
“There are still a lot of mechanical watches out there and the good ones are still running,” said Eric Erickson.
All three agreed being Downtown has provided advantages for their business. Moving to the suburbs or a mall has never even been considered.
“We’ve been Downtown all these years because there are plenty of people who work here who need to buy jewelry or have it repaired. Also, people know we’re here,” said Nolan.
During the interview for this story a steady stream of customers came to the store. It was obvious it wasn’t the first time any of them had been in because the Ericksons greeted them by name as soon as they walked in the door. Most needed a simple repair or a new watch battery and the work was done while the customers waited and chatted.
Eric Erickson said doing business Downtown has the advantages of having a lot of potential customers within walking distance of the store and having a consistent location for more than 75 years, but the real key to success is how you treat the people who make it possible to pay the bills.
“It’s all about customer service and building relationships,” he concluded.
Eric Erickson is the jeweler in the family.